Is 8GB RAM Enough for Programming?

Having a decent amount of RAM isn’t just important when it comes to multimedia work and gaming; it can also be one of the most significant factors in creating an enjoyable development environment.

If you’re new to the world of software development, you might be wondering whether or not you have enough RAM to allow you to create software comfortably. In the vast majority of cases, though, 8GB should be more than enough for your coding needs.

As someone who has been writing my own software for over a decade, I know firsthand exactly how painful it can be to try to create something with inadequate system resources. 

In this article, we’ll look at how the amount of RAM you have installed can help or hinder your workflows, and also take a look at a few different use cases to help you understand how some programming environments are more resource-hungry than others.

So, if you’re a budding coder, keep reading!

How Does RAM Impact a Development Workflow?

Whether you’re doing some light web browsing or creating games using Unity, having enough RAM for your needs is extremely important. If you skimp on it, you should expect to have a less-than-stellar experience.

In fact, having inadequate system memory can severely impact the time it takes you to compile your code, to test your code, and – if your web browsing takes a performance hit – even do the research necessary to know how to write your code.

Using a Graphical Programming Environment with 8GB RAM

Over the last decade, graphical development environments like Unity and the Unreal Engine’s Blueprints tools have made it exponentially easier to write your own games. 

Because these tools do a significant amount of the heavy-lifting work, you can expect them to be significantly more resource-intensive than conventional programming IDEs (Integrated Development Environments). 

Both of the above-mentioned tools should run well on 8GB of RAM, although that’s definitely the lowest amount of memory we’d recommend. 

However, MIT’s Scratch tool will run well on a comparatively minuscule amount of memory – 2GB will generally be enough. That said, we’d still recommend 4GB for the smoothest performance.

Developing for the Web with 8GB RAM

There was a time when web developers used text editors to create the most bandwidth-efficient code possible. As access to higher-speed internet connections has increased, so too has the use of much more resource-heavy web apps.

Writing the code which will run on your back-end should actually not be system-intensive at all. Microsoft’s Visual Studio code can apparently run on as little as 1GB of RAM, and alternatives like Sublime Text or Notepad++ can operate smoothly on minimal memory, too.

However, most web developers today also use front-end prototyping apps to rapidly design their projects. Tools like Invision Cloud, Foundation, and Sketch all make this process a lot easier, but they come with significant performance overheads. To run these tools, 8GB is the minimum we’d recommend; and we’d probably advise going up to 16GB if you can.

Writing Text-Based Apps and Productivity Applications with 8GB RAM

For those of you planning to write less extravagant software, perhaps text-based scripts to run in a shell window, or even basic Universal Windows Platform or Windows Presentation Foundation apps, 8GB is going to be more than sufficient.

Anyone writing text-based apps on a Windows platform can also easily test their code on Linux using the Windows Subsystem for Linux environment. 

This isn’t particularly resource-intensive at all, so – if you can run Windows 10 or Windows 11 comfortably already – it shouldn’t impact your RAM usage by any significant amount.

Using Virtual Machines with 8GB RAM

If you get into serious application development, it’s a good idea to test your software in a variety of Virtual Machines; unlike the Windows Subsystem for Linux, a VM allows you to test a variety of operating system and hardware configurations.

I personally use a number of Windows and Linux VMs on one of my computers with 8GB of RAM. I can tell you that it can be done somewhat comfortably, but you’re probably going to have to be patient at times while the machine takes a second to think and catch up.

If it’s imperative for you to be able to test your software in VMs, or you’d like to keep multiple VMs open at once, you’re going to want to seriously consider 16GB of RAM. You should also do the requisite research to know whether or not your current CPU is up to the task.

Conclusion

Depending on your needs as a programmer, there’s a good chance that 8GB is going to be enough for your basic needs – especially if you’re just starting out with coding. 

When things become more serious, though, and you need to ensure that cross-platform testing is as time and effort-efficient as possible, it’s time to start looking at either a system upgrade or a brand-new computer altogether.

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